Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hmmmm: Alabama Athletic Director Not Necessarily Against NCAA Players Begin Compensated

Newly hired Alabama Athletic Director, Bill Battle, recently waded in on the discussion of 
compensating players.  His comments are certain to gain the attention of many.  The reason is that Bill Battle is the founder of Collegiate Sports Licensing (CLC), which he sold to IMG.  CLC is a defendant in the lawsuit brought by former players, including Ed O'Bannon and Tyrone Prothro (represented by me and my firm) regarding the use of their names and likeness.

So, what did Battle say and why is it important?

"I know the conference (SEC) is on record as saying they want a (cost-of-attendance scholarship) stipend for all athletes," Battle said. "I don't see how you can pay one set of some players on a team more than others. The Olympic model might be something where you put money in a trust and it goes to that individual and they don't use it until after they graduate."
"That may be something. I'm for exploring anything. I want people to get their fair market value. But again, (in) our system ... there are a lot of people that are beneficiaries as well as coaches and players and staff members."

In other words, Battle realizes that the dam has broken.  He is uniquely qualified to try and craft a solution and the powers that be in the NCAA would do well to listen to his sage advice.  However, crafting a solution is more difficult that it appears and the NCAA has always taken a scorched earth approach and been slow to change.  

At the heart of the problem is the fiction created by the NCAA of the "student athlete".  That fiction allowed the NCAA to escape workers compensation liability and also allows them to claim tax exempt status---because they are not a commercial enterprise---how crazy is that notion.  Take away the tax exempt status and discontinue their ability to steal and monetize the names and likeness of the players and you just took away the fancy wine, tenderloin steak, and truffles that the NCAA has been living off for a very long while.

Whether the atomic bomb goes off in the O'Bannon case or not, the die has been cast.  There is just too much money being made off the players.  No one knows for sure when the dam will break, but it is leaking like a Katrina levy, and the NCAA would do well to come up with exit strategy, and come up with it fast.  By all accounts, Bill Battle is a man of character and supremely qualified to craft a solution.  Mr. Emmert would do well to seek his advise as to how craft a solution before one gets crafted for him.